Judgment Remains (Revelation 6-17)

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Pharmacist Robert Courtney grew up as a PK – preacher’s kid.[1] His family traveled and preached in rural churches from Kansas to Arkansas to Alabama and through the Texas Panhandle, none of which provided significant financial comfort. As Robert grew in adulthood, he chose a career path in medicine to help people but also in hopes of greater financial support for his family.

After many years of education and work experience, Robert lived in a large home and traveled often to Colorado ski resorts and to the Caribbean. He owned millions of dollars in stock and almost a million dollars in property, plus several pharmacies. He also gave his church hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But his success came crashing down. It turns out, many of the prescriptions he gave to people with lung cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and scores of other grievous and life-threatening ailments received only a fraction of the doses their doctors prescribed. Courtney charged the full amount but delivered only a small percentage worth of the medicine. The medicine that was intended to cure never truly worked because it was diluted from its healing power. The shady pharmacist repeated this action over and over to make himself rich at the expense of others. Authorities estimated his scheme could have touched 400 doctors, 4,200 patients, and as many as 98,000 prescriptions.

One daughter of a deceased cancer victim called Courtney “a real-life monster in a white coat who smiles and only pretends to help.”

My friends, too often there are preachers and pharmacists who are promising to please but failing to deliver the full remedy for our human problem. We attempt to cure our crisis and solve our sin-problems with a diluted version of God’s healing medicine.

In today’s look at Revelation, we want to consider an accurate diagnosis and the undiluted medicine to begin our healing process.

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EXAMINE           Revelation 6-17

Those who do not worship God will experience the wrath of God. 

Revelation 4-5 open the door of the throne room of heaven with full displays of God’s glory and supernatural praise and worship. All believers are invited to participate in the eternal choir of God’s amazing grace.

Yet, simultaneously with the celebrations of heaven is the chaos on earth. The following chapters of Revelation show unleashing judgment and wrath on the world because of their unwillingness to repent and their rejection of God. A series of three judgments follow:

7 Seals (6:1-17)

  • Jesus (the Lamb) opens the seals. If we don’t believe Jesus will judge sin, then we misunderstand why Jesus died on the cross. Yes, Jesus forgives our sin but only if we have repented from sin with our faith in God’s grace as opposed to our good works.
  • Jesus sends four-horsemen with hoofbeats unlike ever heard on earth.
    • 1st seal is a white horse – deceptive of purity but will bring condemnation and seek to conquer the earth.
    • 2nd seal is a red horse – symbolic of destruction and war against peace.
    • 3rd seal is a black horse – symbolic of grimness, and will bring famine to the earth.
    • 4th seal is a pale green horse executing death over ¼ of the earth.
  • Jesus is unleashing justice with the 5th seal of the martyr’s cry from those Christians who are being persecuted and killed during the tribulation (cf. Rev 6:11).
  • A 6th seal opens an astrological earthquake with a blackened sun, a reddened moon, falling stars, and shakened land and sky. While these descriptions of cosmic upheaval sound far-fetched, remember John is attempting to communicate what he sees without 2000+ years of scientific foresight. Perhaps these are wild weather patterns, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, or even a nuclear holocaust.

Prior to the 7th seal is an immediate interlude covered in chapter 7 of Revelation. Here we see God’s restraining judgment on the four winds (N-S-E-W) for the entire earth. Those who are servants of God will be shielded from a segment of tribulation, perhaps the pending Trumpets and Bowls of judgment, that extend to the rest of earth (cf. Rev 7:3; also consider Noah & family in the Ark; or Israelites during plagues, or Daniel’s friends in fiery furnace, etc.).

The 144,000 sealed are 12,000 from 12 tribes of Israel (12 x 12 x 1,000 – like counting hyped on espresso coffee!). These individuals could be literal with that exact number of Jews sealed, or could be figurative in a complete of Jewish people, or still more symbolic of the church as the true and spiritual Israel of God. I could affirm any of these three views but do lean towards the latter with the context of a “vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev 7:9-10) Then one of the 24 elders identify the multitude as “the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14). Even further, John says in Rev 14:1-5 the 144K are sexually pure virgins not having defiled with women (so would be only male) and have never lied, and are blameless – while all these could be true, John seemingly is visualizing a spiritual purity and righteousness.

Revelation 7_17 graphic

7th Seal opens with silences for half hour with 7 trumpet announcements and prayers rising to God (Rev 8:1).

After the 7 seals are the 7 Trumpets (8:6-9:21)

  1. Hail and fire burn 1/3 vegetation burned 2. 1/3 of sea turns blood 3. Falling star turns 1/3 of fresh water bitter 4. 1/3 of luminaries (sun, moon, stars) turn dark 5. Abyss Plagues permitted to harm everyone but those people who had God’s seal on their foreheads (Rev 9:4). 6. 1/3 of man killed 7. Announcing more judgment

and then the 7 Bowls (15:1-16:21)

  1. Painful sores 2. Turn sea to blood 3. Turn fresh water to blood 4. People burn with fire 5. Darkness & Pain 6. Evaporate Euphrates river 7. Greatest earthquake

Revelation 11:7 and 13:1 introduce us to a beast – or Anti-Christ figure. The beast has 10 horns and 7 heads with blasphemous names. Later in Rev 17:9-11, the symbolism of these relate to kings/kingdoms, with 5 fallen 1 present during John’s day, and 1 more to come. So, very likely the represent seven kingdoms in world history as Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, with Rome in present power, and then a final empire of the last days with the Anti-Christ.

On this note, many preachers and commentators speculate on all sorts of tribulation events – with items like types of warfare, geo-political involvement (China, Russia, Rome, USA, etc.), the specific name of the Anti-Christ with 666 (falling short of 7, three times, complete imperfection), etc.

  • Anti-Christ speculations: R.C. Pope (which one!?!), JFK, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump. Some even suggested Ronald Wilson Reagan bc there were 6 letters in his first, middle, and last names… and after the white house moved into a location at 666 St. Cloud Road.

Speculations about the fiery plagues or mass population deaths come about from modern weaponry like tank canons or helicopter missiles, or high caliber machine guns. While it may not be difficult to foresee such weapons included or even some nations involved in such a way for end time war, it is unwise to force these perspectives onto the text. Attempts to assign specific modern meaning with military arsenal, the latest technology, or even medical terminology are simply speculation and exegetically unsound and unsafe. The better approach is to grasp the essence of the conflict and the implications for the warning.

John wants us to discern the principles and patterns more than specific persons. So, what is anti-Jesus, anti-God, anti-life, anti-grace, anti-generous, anti-peace, and anti-hope and robs worship due to God? We can imagine lots of people or things that are god-substitutes and idols. And, we know God’s enemy doesn’t always wage war with a sword but sometimes battles with counterfeit pleasure. The Anti-Christ is different for every generation and wages war with unique strategies through big systems, small structures, and endless events that cause us to worry, fear, doubt, and rebel against Jesus Christ.

1John 4:2-3 “This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does confesses Jesus is not from God – this is the spirit of the anti-Christ; you have heard that he is coming and he is already in the world now.”

Further, verses describing God’s judgment and wrath….

Revelation 6:15-16 “[They] hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

Revelation 9:6 “During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.”

The judgments of God will be fearful, grueling experiences. Who is able to stand the great day of God’s wrath (Rev 6:17)? “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

  • If you could know the winning lottery number in advance, wouldn’t you want to know it?
    If you could know how you and loved ones were going to die, wouldn’t you want to know it to help them avoid accidents, follow specific health habits or preventative medical choices, etc.?
    Even more – in reading Revelation you have insider information about a reward far greater than material gain or physical support; we have the cure for our souls to live in eternal joy and freedom by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Isn’t today the time for you to experience for yourself and to urgently share the cure with others? #WhosYour1

 

Those who worship God will experience the salvation of God.

Throughout the book of Revelation are pictures of worship – some worship God with His glory and grace, while others worship the false beast. While we have seen several chapters filled with God’s judgment upon those who do not worship God, we should also see the good news of judgment. Yes, judgment can be good news when we discern them as further opportunities for change.

The amazing reality of God’s judgment is, like the 7 churches who were commanded to repent so they did not have their lampstands removed, God provides opportunity for repentance in each series of judgment. In the midst of God pouring rage, He provides a rescue for those who repent.

Revelation 9:20-21 “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”

Revelation 16:11 “[They] cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.”

Revelation 13 and 14 are contrasts for salvation and judgment.

  • Rev 13 false lamb out of the earth (Rev 13:11) but Rev 14 true lamb from mt zion (Rev 14:1)
  • Rev 13:7, 12, 14-15 the beast and false lamb have permitted authority while the true Lamb has inherent and supreme authority standing over all creation (Rev 14:1).
  • Rev 13 the worshipers of the false lamb are enslaved, deceived, and have mark of 666 (Rev 13:12-18) but Rev 14 has the worshipers of the true lamb redeemed, purity without lies, and singing a new song (Rev 14:2-3).
  • Revelation 14:6-7 “Then I saw another angel flying high overhead, having the eternal gospel to announce to the inhabitants of the earth – to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He spoke with a loud voice: ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship the Maker of heaven and earth, maker of the sea, and maker of the springs of water.”

 

Christians are called to worship God faithfully and to follow Jesus fully.
Revelation 13:10 “This demands the perseverance and faith of the saints.”

Revelation 14:12-13 This demands the perseverance of the saints, who keep God’s commands and their faith in Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.’ The Spirit says, ‘Yes, let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them.”

In other words, faith requires a long obedience in the same direction, persevering to follow Christ and stay faithful to God.

For many, you not only read about disorder and death galloping around the four corners of earth but you live it. You rise and sleep with questions like “Who can stand?” or “Lord, how long until you avenge and make justice?” Based on our faith, we expect God to rescue us from suffering in a specific timeframe (now), in a specific manner (comfort), and with specific justice (smote enemies). But then we experience silence… and we wait, and wait, and wait.

If you are under the impression that the faith life is the easy life and escapes suffering, then 1) I am sorry you were misinformed in your Christian discipleship, and 2) I am afraid you have some hard learning and unlearning to do. Make no mistake – God is at work all around us and Jesus will win in the end, but He will do so when we least expect and in ways that will surprise us. Very often, Jesus saves His people not from suffering but through suffering; to wreck our pride, humble our self-sufficiency, tear down our rationalized self-defenses, and remake us from our heart of stone with a heart of flesh.

So, keep praying, keep asking questions, and keep persevering. There are no shortcuts to spiritual growth and seeing victory in Jesus. But take heart, you are not alone. There is a vast multitude who will have endured trials and tribulations – not necessarily all the same ones you have experienced, but their own – and together we will be able to sing with the redeemed. Our singing will help us to look back at God’s salvation and look forward to say, “It was all worth it… Christ is worthy.”

APPLY/THINK

  • Worship God = Walk with Jesus. Can I encourage you to do that literally this week? Go outside, but if not, walk with Jesus in your house – and [re]dedicate your heart and home to Jesus. Renew your commitment to not just walking with Jesus but witnessing for Jesus.
  • Unite yourself with the vast multitude of God’s people with a condensed representation @ SPBC…
  • Questions from Rev 6-17 > send them in and I’ll try to incorporate next week or follow up off-line.

[1] http://www.kansascity.com/news/special-reports/kc-true-crime/article705846.html

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